Working with Age

Working with Age

Working with Age

Working with Age


Age is currently the subject of research as a pressing social concern on a scale previously unimaginable in the social sciences and caring professions. The inexorable development of the age pyramid and the quick pace of technological change has brought work and age together as crucially interlinked areas of study and intervention.


The relationship between ageing and work is a major topic for reflection and discussion. Although research on this subject has grown rapidly in the last few years, only a few overviews are available to help individuals faced with the problems of ageing and work to obtain information, and find practical solutions. Working with Age was designed to bridge this gap.

Ageing at work can be considered as a social, organisational, and individual (especially physiological) phenomenon. Each of these dimensions highlights a different side of ageing, its causes and its effects. Integrating into a coherent whole the viewpoints that characterise the different approaches to ageing is neither a straightforward nor a simple endeavour. Depending on whether age-related decline or work experience is emphasised, the viewpoints may even be diametrically opposed, in such a way that age in some cases is considered as an important resource in the company and in society as a whole, while being perceived in others as a limitation that prevents the full use of the ageing individual's work capacities.

The existence of these different points of view is illustrated by the case of an industrial woodworker. The man in question was a nice, competent, hard-working but currently unemployed individual in his 50s. He had suffered from an occupational injury that was not serious enough to prevent him from working, but combined with his age, made him into a less than ideal candidate for a job in the woodworking industry. As part of a programme for unemployed workers, he was temporarily hired by a government agency to do odd maintenance jobs. While holding this job he did everything he could to prove that his experience could easily be transferred to his current work and that he would be useful to the employer, in the hope of obtaining a permanent position. In spite of his efforts, he failed to get the job and had to go back to unemployment. The legitimate needs of the employer were not brought together with the undeniable skills of the woodworker. This man was not granted a permanent position because his age and his slight disability were regarded as limitations by the employer, who did not see the worker's positive side by considering his experience to be an asset.

An up-to-date view-and also the standpoint of ergonomists-would see the ageing population as a useful and even indispensable resource in modern society. However, the older working population can only constitute a beneficial resource if specific actions are taken in the areas of work organisation and social adaptation. The above example is a

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